It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a potentially deadly combination.
A Purdue University study of 10 Indiana GA airports found that animals can gain easy access to airports, increasing the likelihood of planes hitting those animals.
The study by Gene Rhodes, a professor of forestry and natural resources, documented that animals found ways through damaged fences or unfenced areas onto airports.
“Just about every pilot we talked to at these airports said that during a landing they’ve had to pull up to avoid hitting an animal on the runway,” Rhodes said. “With the size of planes using these airports, hitting a rabbit could flip a plane.”
Only four of the airports had fences around the entire perimeter, and even those had maintenance problems, such as holes dug under fences or holes in fences that allowed animals onto the properties.
Rhodes noted that airports often are a magnet for wildlife, often because of what is growing near the airport.
“Even if you have certain grasses, you have small mammals that eat those, and those attract red-tailed hawks. A red-tailed hawk can bring down a small plane as fast as anything.”
Previous studies have shown that wildlife strikes cost more than a half a billion dollars each year and have been responsible for more than 350 deaths in the last century.
Rhodes’ study suggests enclosing 100% of airport perimeters with partially buried fencing, which keeps animals from tunneling underneath. Frequent maintenance also is key, he said.
“If airports can use this study to show their needs, it can allow them to go after federal grants they need to make improvements,” Rhodes said.
For more information: Purdue.edu.